Chapter two

Qoheleth begins to relate it all to God

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Qoheleth begins to relate it all to God

2:24 There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen, that it is from the hand of God. {adv. !yIa; there does not exist—m.s.n. bAj good, if comparative, “better”—pref. B + m.s.n. ~d'a'—pref. v, which “except” —Qal impf. 3ms lk;a' he will eat—w.c. + Qal pf. 3ms ht'v' he will drink—w.c. + Hiphil pf. 3ms ha'r' he will cause to see—s.d.o. tae—f.s.n.const. + 3ms suff. vp,n< his soul, himself—m.s.n. bAj good, pleasure, satisfaction—pref. B + m.s.n.const. + 3ms suff. lm'[' toil, labor—adv. ~G: also, indeed, even—f.s.adj. hzO near demons.—Qal pf. 1s ha'r' I have seen, perceived, evaluated—pron. 1s ynIa] I myself—conj. YKi that—pref. m + f.s.n.const. dy" from the hand, an idiom for provided by—d.a. + m.p.n. ~yhil{a/ the God—pron. 3fs ayhi}

2:25 For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him? {conj. YKi causal, for, because—interrog.pron. ymi who—Qal impf. 3ms. lk;a' who will eat, who is able to eat—waw + interrog.pron. ymi who—

Qal impf. 3ms vWx derivation uncertain..can be from root to hasten or hurry, some have suggested to experience emotion, to care for, to feel pain or pleasure based on other related languages—m.s.n. #Wx lit. outside, opposite of inside—pref. !mi + 1s suff. lit. from me}
Exposition vs. 24-25

  1. For the first time in this book, we now hear the voice of the older, wiser Qoheleth, who weighs in with some observations and comments, which will continue through the end of chapter three.

  2. Qoheleth is now writing about his conclusions following his existential experiment, when he has come to the conclusion that nothing really matters.

  3. In our present verse Qoheleth begins his first major summary of his thinking, based on his conclusions that meaning is not to be found in life through pleasure, wisdom, or productive labor.

  4. As we will observe, simply because Qoheleth begins to relate these matters to the sovereignty of God and His plan, he will continue to work through his struggles with the realities of life.

  5. In that regard, he is not any different than any believer that has pondered the difficulties of this life, considered the realities that govern it, and sought some sort of permanent contentment and resolution to the issues.

  6. While the traditional wisdom teachers would have highly valued both the pursuit of wisdom and the virtue of hard work, Qoheleth now seemingly advocates the simple life, being content with the basic necessities and enjoying the life one has been given.

  7. However, as he will point out, there is a Divine element of blessing that must be present in order to make life worthwhile.

  8. These two verses are among some of the most difficult from a grammatical standpoint, which has raised the issue of textual problems, as well as creating interpretative challenges.

  9. Generally speaking, there are three translations of the first part of verse 24, each of which dramatically affects the interpretation.

  10. The first understands Qoheleth to say that man is not inherently good simply because he can eat, drink, and find some measure of satisfaction in his labors.

  11. However, that interpretation reads a moral sense into bAj (tobh-good), which it has not had in any of the previous usages in this book. Eccles. 2:1,3

  12. The second rendering of the text produces an idea that there is a measure of satisfaction in life, but it does not lie within man to bestow it upon himself.

  13. This translation is certainly in harmony with what follows, which indicates that man himself is not the ultimate source of pleasure; true enjoyment in life comes as a blessing from God.

  14. These two interpretations are based on the most literal translation of the Hebrew text, without any emendations or suggestions of textual inaccuracy.

  15. The third (and most common) translation is reflected in the New American Standard, which sees the phrase ~d"a'B' bAjÜ-!ya (there does not exist good with man) as being comparative and having the sense that there is nothing better for a man. cf. Eccles. 3:12, 22, 8:15

  16. This translation makes sense and is consistent with the fact that Qoheleth uses the Hebrew noun bAj (tobh—good) in a comparative sense in other passages. Eccles. 4:9, 7:3

  17. However, as many have noted, when bAj (tobh—good) is used in a comparative sense it is most often followed by the preposition !mi (min—from); to be good from something is to be better than something.

  18. Secondly, this tends to translate the prefixed preposition B (b—in, with, by) as though it was a l (l—to, for). cf. 2:3

  19. This has caused many ancient versions and modern interpreters to suspect that an incident of haplography (writing once what should be written twice) has occurred between ~d"a'B' (ba’adham) and lk;äaYOv, (sheyyo’khal).

  20. Based on this suggestion, some ancient interpreters have read this as a question however, this does not materially change the force of what Qoheleth is saying.

  21. The translation would then read Is it not better with a man who eats and drinks and causes his soul to see good in his toil?

  22. However, there is no good reason to read this as a question since it is evident from what follows that Qoheleth is stating a conclusion based on his observations.

  23. Further, his questions have been completely rhetorical to this point and have been introduced by the normal interrogative pronouns.

  24. It would seem that the second rendering fits the context better and is the most true to the Masoretic Text; mankind will not find satisfaction apart from the blessing of the sovereign God.

  25. In fact, this passage indicates that man will not even enjoy the common blessings of eating, drinking, and productive labor unless God grants him those blessings and some ability to enjoy them.

  26. This is the first real allusion to God as the slightly older, wiser Qoheleth begins to turn the spiritual corner by factoring the sovereignty of God into his equation.

  27. This is the first real comfort that is mentioned in the book; after his brutally honest, but somewhat cynical, view of life in a cursed environment, Qoheleth now acknowledges the sovereignty of God.

  28. He strongly asserts that he has personally observed this reality and that it is not in question. Indeed, I myself have observed/perceived/understood/learned

  29. The latter part of the verse poses a small problem in that one must identify the antecedent of the near demonstrative feminine adjective hzO (zoh—she, it).

  30. The most logical reference is to the phrase that follows the conjunction yKi (kiy—that), which here serves to introduce the content of what Qoheleth has perceived.

  31. He indicates that the ability to eat, drink, and find enjoyment in the labor of life is contingent upon God’s blessing and not upon man’s ability to bless or please himself.

  32. The phrase the hand of Elohiym is an anthropomorphism (ascribing to God human form), which is a figure that is used to portray God’s sovereignty, power, and providence, whether in benevolence (Eccles 2:24) or in judgment. Ex. 3:30; ISam. 5:11

  33. He will continue to emphasize the importance of God in the life of man in the verse that follows, as he asks another rhetorical question.

  34. The New American Standard translation seems to be pretty straightforward, but there are three issues that confront the interpreter.

  35. The first part of the verse is quite straightforward and is accurately translated by the New American Standard Bible. For/because who will eat?

  36. The first problem is the meaning of the verb vWx (chush), which normally is defined by the concepts of hurrying or hastening to do something; a cognate vyxi (chiysh) has the sense of quickly.

  37. Clearly, such a definition does not work in our passage, and the ancient versions do not provide a definitive answer.

  38. The Septuagint (3rd century BC), Peshitta (Syriac Version, 2-4th century AD), and Theodotion (2nd century AD) read the text as ht'v' (shathah—drink) in order to harmonize it with the previous verse; this is exactly what one would expect after the verb lk;a' (‘akhal—eat).

  39. Scholars have suggested the following meanings for the verb, all of which are derived from cognate languages such as Akkadian, Ugaritic, or Arabic

  1. Enjoy.

  2. Be anxious, fret.

  3. Refrain.

  4. Eat.

  5. Consider.

  1. The reality is that the term is unclear and there is no consensus, so we will leave it as the New American Standard has translated it since the context supports the translation.

  2. The second problem in this verse is found in the next word #Wx (chuts), which normally refers to that which is outside, either immediately outside or removed some distance. Gen. 6:14, 24:11

  3. While our English idiom outside of him has the sense of apart from someone, there is no other verse in which the Hebrew would appear to support this meaning.

  4. Beyond this issue is the last word of the verse yNIM<)mi (mimenniy), which is translated as a third person singular suffix (from Him), but is actually a first person singular (from me)

  5. If the Masoretic text is correct (which we presume it to be), there are two possible options as to how we are to understand this.

  6. The first is that Solomon is referring to himself; he would be the foremost judge, who could speak with authority about the pleasures of life and the ability to enjoy them.

  7. The second interpretation would understand it as a proverbial expression that Solomon was quoting to justify his conclusions in verse 24 and verse 26.

  8. This would be a common saying of which his readers would be aware; further, this was something that we have seen him do in chapter one, when he justified his conclusions citing to proverbial sayings. Eccles. 1:15,18

  9. If the text is to be emended to the third person singular (apart from Him) it clearly makes the point that true pleasure comes from God.

  10. In either case, the interpretation is that man will not find his happiness in the normal aspects of life apart from the sovereign will of God.

2:26 For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God's sight. This too is vanity and striving after wind. {conj. YK causal, for, because—pref. L + m.s.n. ~d'a' to a man—pref.rel.part. v, + m.s.n. bAj who is good—pref. l + m.p.n.const. + 3ms suff. hn
to his faces=before him—Qal pf. 3ms !t;n" he gave, he has given—f.s.n. hm'k.x'—waw + f.s.n. t[;D; knowledge, perception—waw + f.s.n. hx' joy, pleasure—waw + pref. l + Qal act.part.m.s. aj'x' lit. to miss the mark or target—Qal pf.3ms !t;n" God gives—m.s.n. !y"n>[I what keeps one busy, occupation, task—pref. l + Qal infin.const. @s;a' to bring together, to collect, to assemble; first two infinitives are in apposition to task, his task is gathering and collecting—waw + pref. l + Qal infin.const. sn:K' 11X, similar to previous verb, gather, collect—pref. l + Qal infin.const. !t;n" purpose or result—pref. l + m.s.adj. bAj to the good man—pref. l + m.p.n.const. hn
—d.a. + m.p.n. ~yhil{a/--conj. ~G: also, indeed, even—m.s.adj. hz< this activity, this situation—m.s.n. lb,h,--waw + f.s.n.const. tW[r>--f.s.n. x;Wr chasing, striving of wind}
Exposition vs. 26

  1. Qoheleth now continues his explanation of the fact that whatever measure of happiness may be found in life does not ultimately originate with man himself.

  2. He now explains his rationale with respect to how he sees the sovereign God dealing with the human race.

  3. He simply divides humanity into two classes of individuals—those that are good in his sight, and those that are sinners.

  4. While these are certainly the two extremes, it would appear that the terms are to be taken in a moral sense of the one that pleases God and the one that misses the mark

  5. This brings the attribute of righteousness to bear since the mark they are missing must be related to God’s perfect standards.

  6. There is no evidence here that Qoheleth is remotely attempting to say that God gives good things to good people and bad things to bad people, as some have attempted to suggest.

  7. What he is explaining, beginning with the causal yKi (kiy—for, because) is that there are two distinct categories of humanity and God deals with each of them according to His sovereign choice.

  8. The first category is identified in the text as a man who is good, an individual that is contrasted with the more succinct term a sinner.

  9. Again, there is reason to read a moral connotation into the words; one should understand them as referring to the one of whom God approves, and the one who misses the mark.

  10. Ginsberg is close to the truth as he observes, “these terms mean respectively ‘pleasing to God’ and ‘displeasing to God’—not righteous and wicked.”

  11. However, is not one pleasing to God or displeasing because he is either living according to God’s standards or he is not.

  12. In that regard, we are dealing with the simplest categories of positive volition and negative volition this would include the entire human race, encompassing believers and unbelievers alike.

  13. We certainly know that negative unbelievers miss the mark in a far greater way than negative believers; however, the point here is that we are dealing with all those that miss the mark.

  14. Therefore, in context, the man who is good is the man that hits the mark with respect to God and His plan.

  15. The overriding consideration that is not to be overlooked here is that we are not talking about human evaluation, what the human race thinks, or how it evaluates people; the qualifier that really matters is whether one is acceptable before Elohiym.

  16. His standards, and His standards alone, form the basis by which the sovereign God chooses to impart His gifts and blessings to the human race.

  17. In that regard, if anyone intends to come under the greatest blessings of God, he must recognize, understand, and orient to God’s standards.

  18. Further, every believer should have a strong grasp on the concept of volition, and the difference between positive and negative volition.

  19. Positive volition is defined as one that wants a relationship with God, and is willing to orient himself to God and His way of doing things.

  20. Negative volition either does not want a relationship with God, or it refuses to humble itself and do things in the way that God has established.

  21. Qoheleth is not saying that God simply makes sovereign choices to bless some and frustrate others apart from any other considerations.

  22. God is not arbitrary (although this verse may tend to make it sound that way); He exercises His sovereign will according to, and in harmony with, all the other attributes of the Divine Essence.

  23. We know (as Solomon knew) that God is righteous; this chief attribute of His essence is the sum total of all His norms and standards with respect to what is right or correct. IKings 8:46

  24. In that regard, God can do nothing that would violate His own standards of righteousness, even when it might be in the best interests of others for Him to do so. Ps. 89:14

  25. This attribute of the Divine Essence forms the basis as to why Elohiym is holy, separate from all that which is not compatible with His standards of right and wrong. Ps. 97:2

  26. Therefore, we can readily identify the man who is good in His sight as the man that seeks to orient to God’s standards. Jn. 14:21

  27. Given what Solomon knew of the Old Testament, it would seem that his clear definition of the man who was good before God was the one who listened to God and applied what he learned. Ex. 15:26

  28. This demonstrates the fear of the Lord and true humility; anyone that insists on doing things in his own way, and is rejecting God’s way at that point, is manifesting a very real lack of the fear of the Lord.

  29. In both cases, the Qal perfect of the Hebrew verb !t;n" (nathan—give, He has given) is used in a gnomic sense, which is designed to convey a constant, axiomatic, or universal truth.

  30. Further, the use of that verb emphasizes the grace nature of God’s plan, which does not emphasize human achievement, but orientation to God and reception of His grace blessings.

  31. What should be very obvious in this verse is not only the two divisions of humanity, those that please God and those that don’t, but the nature of what comes to each category.

  32. The blessings of God promised to any man who is good in his sight are the intangible blessings of wisdom, knowledge, and joy.

  33. The wisdom, knowledge, and joy that God provides must be quite different from the wisdom, knowledge, and joy that a man can provide for himself.

  34. This seems evident based on the words of Qoheleth, who has previously acknowledged that his own wisdom, knowledge, and pleasure has proven to be quite unsatisfactory. Eccles. 1:13,18, 2:1,2

  35. Therefore, we must make a clear distinction between the blessings of God, which are freely given under grace, and those things that are pursued and apprehended by human ability and effort.

  36. The latter will prove to be unsatisfying in the long term; the former are grace gifts that can ultimately provide lasting satisfaction.

  37. While God provides positive rewards that ultimately make life worthwhile for those that please Him, He establishes the thankless task of amassing things for those that miss the mark spiritually.

  38. The task of gathering and collecting refers to the tangible, material things in life that materialistic people tend to spend their time pursuing and collecting.

  39. This is reminiscent of the agricultural world, which encompasses the work of the farmer reaping his crops and then storing them up in the barn.

  40. However, the irony is that those that miss the mark before God will find their storehouses are not safe, and their goods will eventually be given to another. Lk. 12:20

  41. Ultimately, God will work by His own sovereign means to redistribute the wealth that so many have wasted their lives pursuing and amassing.

  42. There certainly seems to be an element of despair in this recognition that it is not man, but God, who ultimately determines the disposition of His blessings and the world’s goods.

  43. Perhaps Qoheleth recognized that he had not been the sort of man that was good in God’s sight; he certainly recognized and lamented the fact that all his goods were going to be given to someone else upon his death. Eccles. 2:18-20

  44. However, the recognition of the sovereign working of God behind the obvious inequities of life is designed to bring a measure of comfort to the positive believer.

Doctrine of the Essence of God

Doctrine of Volition

Ecclesiastes 2

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